I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau video, swimming with whales was always a dream of mine. I took the excuse of a needed photography course to do so. Editing and Taking pictures of orcas underwater in the darkness of the arctic winter sounds technically challenging enough. One of the best in marine photography Darren Jew was the host as well as a marine biologist who gave us a lot of betas, science and datas. It took me 2 days to get used to the underwater gear and I’m still learning the tricks of pushing the technical limits of my sensor as well as the do’s and don’t in post editing. This week was absolutely stellar, visually brilliant , and very cold…swimming with whales and orcas is spiritually enriching.
The orcas for the past 7 years had been in around Tromso, in the ervfjord. However, they follow the herrings. The water in ervfjord was 10c too warm, the salmond farm are depleting the water of oxygen and the herrings usually change location every 10 years or so, which one had them to move up north east to skervoy this year is unclear, but we had to move camp to Havness. we spent most our days on a boat, it took us 1 hour to go from Havnnes to Skervoy, once around skervoy, we were hoping to find them feeding on a ball bait of herring which makes it easy to take photos. When they are chasing salmond or just socializing, it is very difficult to get in the water on time before they vanish especially when they are not in the mood. Most the time we end up jumping in, maybe take a shot, back on boat, cold as hell, find a few other, jump in…and so on…
But on the 3rd day freezing our asses off , jumping on and off , getting blurry shots, we found a fish net full of herrings with a dozens mostly adults male orcas roaming around. It was epic, special. We swam in the warmth of the water for 2 hours and all got pretty rad shots…
Of course, The arctic offers us an exploding sky which adds to the dreamy unreal trip i am on
a few facts
there are about 50 -100 K orcas worldwide. 3 types with 3 different diets including transients orcas eating mostly marine mammals like in antartica and residents orcas eating mostly fish like in norway or canada. In canada , the wild chinook salmond is vanishing due to salmond farms, orcas don’t eat farmed salmond and are found dead, starvation. In ersfjord near tromso , salmond farm sucked the oxygen out of the water, the water temp raised, herrings moved north so did the orcas and us. In the world, there are still some moronic idiotic humans who think those animals belong in a pool, they are still captured worldwide. Each pods speak a complete different languages, 2 different pods can’t understand each other, when they capture orcas, very often , they mix different Types (transient, residents, off shore) which have different diet but also from different pods so they can’t communicate. Those morons try to give fish to transient orcas and they die…they are called killer whales, they are big and dark but they have a big heart. they are closer to the dolphin than anything else. Catch 22: in norway, fishermans want to bring the whale and orcas quota up because, they say, they eat all the fish. The whale watching tourism bring more money than fishing. So it was refused. But, there are some abuse and more and more people harass those animals, chasing them, trying to touch them….it is bad ethic. I saw it.
I spent 1 month volunteering in Namibia-naankuse, south-Africa-Kevin Richardson and Zambia. I found volunteering is the best way to go for countries in southern Africa. The money goes straight into conservation effort, working and spending time with local is very enriching, i get a better understanding of the conservation work and limitations , and I get a more intimate experience with wild species..
Season 2016/17 is officially the worst since i arrived in chamonix in 2005. People do ski and have fun but i would need the same inspiration than when I ski in August or July. It isn’t there so i work. My seasonal job this year is transfer driver. It translate into probably 30 000 Km since i started. I like it, i like the road. It unfurl the mind with its load of oddity and glitches. Like a Lynch movie. It is a good recipe to clear the brain up. or at least for me . Everything seems to make sense. almost.
the good stuff of 2016
I bought 3 music albums.
Le trio Joubran-as fâr and Majâz. Amazing music from palestine!
radiohead a moon shaped pool.
ben milstein-untitled EP : sweet intricate electro
I bought one ski movie: Sam favret : backyard: sweet film showing the chamonix backyard and sam’s crew. Amazing imagery and editing.
Manley is still my favorite .
and also: la liste where jeremy heitz show us how to ski steep today.
2016 started at the infamous berghain
All kind of Chamonix happened.
To get away from it all i opted to volunteer and work toward conservation , rehabilitation and research at the N/a’an ku sê foundation in Namibia. Go on their site at http://naankuse.com , they describe their mission and goal, very impressive. I was introduced to it via the great projects who specialize in volunteering trips around the world
I spent a little time at the sanctuary a 3200 hectare property sanctuary for animals in need of rescue, rehabilitation and sometimes relocation. Food prep, animal walk, game count , set up camera trap, animal feed, are a few of the the thing to do there.
Then i went to the very scenic and impressive Kanaan Desert location , 33000 hectares to establish there an unfenced wildlife reserve, which is based on scientific and sustainable management practices and which provides refuge for a suite of endangered species such as cheetah and hyena. The work there are taking down fences, game count, camera trap management, data processing, locate hyaenas , cheetahs or leopard tracks, poop or marking in order to define a pattern , install a camera trap and connect the dots…the project there is mostly on assessing the population of spotted hyaenas outside of game park.
after that i went to the neuras conservation and wine estate, 14,500 hectare. A sort of oasis in the desert with a vineyard , the longest canyon in the world. The work there was mostly like at kanaan, walk a lot and figure out the hyaenas. Study that hasn’t been done since the 90’s…how many hyaenas outside of game park?
It was an amazing and fulfilling time with amazing people, animals and scenics. A much better option, i think, than expensive safaris or backpacking in that region. It is also sending a positive sign to the tourist industry in regions where there is still wild life and must be protected.
My experience in namibia with locals as well as participating in conservation was far more enriching than any backpacking trip i did anywhere in the world. Tourism and backpacking is to me so passè and overrated . Participating is much better than just being a consumer…the great projects organizations has many trips around the world where you can participate and mix it up with locals as well as learn and have an over all good time. Visit them…